Bradford Council hires Impower for cost savings initiative

31 July 2020 3 min. read

Bradford Council has angered some by opting to pay a London consulting firm £1 million, as it looks for ways to save money in the long-term. The cash-strapped local authority defended its decision by claiming that when it had previously engaged Impower, the firm had helped save more than it had charged for its services.

Consultants from London-based public services consultancy are set to be handed £1 million for the continuation of its work advising Bradford Council’s cost-cutting drive. £1 million in funds for the contract had originally been earmarked in February, with the Council hoping a continued relationship with Impower would help improve outcomes in services where “significant changes to service delivery are being undertaken,” provide a return on investment on the work undertaken and a sustained improvement in performance and value for money.

According to the firm’s website, Impower has worked with more than 140 councils, health bodies and other local organisations since 2000, and specialises in helping public bodies provide better outcomes with lower costs. However, not everyone is sold on the value of external expertise in this case. Local campaigners from The Bradford People’s Assembly Against Austerity were among the first to raise concerns about such a high value contract being awarded at a time when the authority needs to tighten purse strings.

Bradford Council hires Impower for cost savings initiative

A spokesperson for the organisation said, “We are aware that the Council has spent a lot of money on consultants over the past 10 years and there is little evidence to support that they help to deliver savings or better services… The Council have spent a lot of money for very little in return, so providing Impower with a further £1 million cannot be a sensible decision or recommendation.”

Despite these claims having since been echoed by a number of opposition councillors, Bradford Council’s leadership insists that by working with Impower in the past, the Council has in fact saved much more money than it had paid for their services. While the company had been paid over £2 million by the Council in recent years, Officers claimed, the work had led to many more millions in budget savings. They particularly pointed to how Impower had previously worked on reducing the Council’s Health and Wellbeing budget. This included identifying ways to prevent people from falling into the care system.

Addressing Council members, Bev Maybury, Strategic Director of Health and Wellbeing, said the work had looked at how spending a relatively small amount of money to help people remain in their own homes could lead to much greater savings in future, as they would avoid costly residential care. She added, “A small investment at an early stage can save a lot of money in the end, and help people have a better quality of life.”

The news revives an age-old debate as to whether local authorities are justified in spending public money on consulting work, while cutting back on other important aspects of investment. In 2019, a freedom of information request by The Times has revealed that local councils across the UK had spent around £400 million on consulting firms in 2018 alone – representing a rise of more than a fifth since 2014. Then as now, critics used the figures to call into question the value added by engaging external expertise.